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Tokyo city guide: Doing business in the capital of Japan

Name: Andrew Wildblood
Age: 40
Nationality: British
Position: Head of Asia Pacific Enterprise GES for Telstra

 

Allergic to neon? Steer clear of Shinjuku 

How often do you travel to Tokyo and who do you fly with?
I travel to Tokyo every two months, so around six times a year, and for an average of four days at a time. I fly with Singapore Airlines, usually taking the last flight at night and sleeping on the flight so I don’t waste a day flying. Flight time is just under seven hours.

What’s one thing everyone ought to know about Tokyo?
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with 36 million people. It’s a diverse city made up of diverse suburbs, and is home to 51 of the Fortune 500 Companies. It’s an amazingly vibrant, 24-hour, truly global city.

How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
Visa on arrival; it usually takes around 20 minutes to line up and get through immigration.

Fastest way into and around the city?
Taxi from Haneda airport. I use taxis for convenience; they’re very clean and good value, though be mindful that not all drivers speak English. If you need to keep time on your side for an appointment, I’d recommend using the subway.

When are the good and bad times to visit?
The best time is the end of March to the beginning of April for the cherry blossom season, which is spectacular. The worst time is any time you happen to come across a typhoon – usually the end of the summer season, in September and October. The summer is very hot and humid and the winter is cold – it snows in January and February.

 

How not to dress for a business meeting 

Any hotels you particularly recommend?
The Imperial Hotel near the Imperial Palace – or Strings in Shinagawa, if your business is around the Shinagawa area.

What’s the dress code for meetings?
Doing business is very traditional in Japan so usually wearing a suit and tie is appropriate, especially in winter. In summer, many businesses have summer dress policy and the jacket and tie may be less important.

Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Japan is very traditional and has a lot of cultural and business etiquette. Greetings will be with a bow to your customer, and the more senior the customer, the deeper and longer the bow. Seniority is everything in Japanese businesses, and respect is paid to seniority, so you need to be conscious of where you sit in a meeting. For example, if you are the most senior representative from your organisation then you will sit opposite the most senior person from the customer’s organisation. It takes time to build long-term rapport and in Japan people respect the time and effort taken to build and sustain these relationships.

Where do you take a client to lunch or dinner?
I like to visit a traditional Japanese restaurant, Ginpei, in Ginza; it’s a fine-dining sashimi restaurant.

What about casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
A teppanyaki place called Teppan-yaki Ten in Ginza 8-Chome; it has amazing food, great service – and fish tanks!

 

 

Any unsafe areas to avoid?
I find that Tokyo is a very safe city and in my experience I haven’t come across any unsafe areas.

If you’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
The Meiji Shrine with its well-wooded forest at the centre of downtown Tokyo; it’s right next to the young fashion street of Harajuku. I would also take time to visit the Imperial Palace, or do the nice 5km run around the perimeter of it. The latest tourist attraction is the new Tokyo Tower, with a revolving restaurant at the top; it’s very popular, so you need to book in advance. 

Recommended gifts to take home for family and friends?
For kids in school, you can’t go past an eraser in the shape of various kinds of sushi; or a traditional and beautiful Japanese fan for decorating the home. Japan remains an incredibly technologically advanced country, so you could even consider taking home a robot for the children!

How long before your flight do you really need to be at the airport?
If you’re flying from Haneda Airport, then a taxi from downtown Tokyo may take 30 minutes, and you should aim to be at airport around 1.5 hours prior to flight. Haneda has efficient check-in and customs, so I usually leave Tokyo around two hours prior to take off, if I have already checked in.

Tell us about a typical day for you in Tokyo, for those who might be travelling there for work in the near future.
Wake up with a run around the Imperial Palace, then head to the office, and meet customers with the traditional etiquette needed in business in Japan. Sushi and sashimi for lunch, then take in one of Tokyo’s amazing restaurants for dinner with a customer – all topped off with karaoke or a nightcap in the lively suburbs of Roppongi or Ginza.

 

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